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Virtual Drums that Rock! – NI Maschine | Home Music Production


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Virtual Drums that Rock! – NI Maschine

Virtual Drums that Rock! - NI Maschine
Virtual Drums that Rock! - NI Maschine
Virtual Drums that Rock! - NI Maschine


Developer: Native Instruments
Website: www.native-instruments.com
Version: 1.7
Type: Hardware & software groove sequencer. VST host.


Ease of Use



Total Score



Great selection of high-quality sounds. Easy to use sequencer. Hosts VST and AU instruments.


Nothing significant.

Posted March 11, 2012 by Stephan Earl

Full Review

Virtual Drums that Rock! - NI Maschine

Virtual Drums That Rock! – Maschine

A couple of years ago I started the Virtual Drums That Rock! series and reviewed four of my go-to virtual drum plugins at the time including EZ Drummer, Addictive Drums, Battery 3 and RMX Stylus (see Virtual Drums That Rock! – Part 1).  Well, things have progressed since then, and there are a couple of new virtual drum categories out there that deserve mention.  One category is the virtual drummer category with great products such as MDrummer 4 by MeldaProduction and Jamstix by Rayzoon.  The other category is the hybrid groove machine hardware with accompanyingvirtual drums software.  One new addition in this category is the MPC Renaissance (and MPC Studio) by Akai, and the veteran of this category Maschine (and Maschine Mikro) by Native Instruments.   In this article I’m going to discuss the power that is… Maschine.

Before I get started let me talk about what Maschine is not.  It isn’t the best place to go if you’re strictly looking for realistic acoustic drum sounds.  While there are many acoustic drum sets within Maschine, there are better plug-ins for this purpose such as Superior Drummer 2.0 by Toontrack which offers an array of control over acoustic drum kits offering, well…  superior realism.  So with that said, let’s begin to talk about what Native Instruments’ Maschine is.

Virtual Drums That Rock!  Maschine

Maschine at its core is a drum groove sequencer.  It was reared from the Akai MPC tradition of 16 pads with sampling capability and urban sounding drums.  So being the Jazz musician that I am, someone like me would think on the surface that Maschine may not be right for them.  Well this can’t be further from the truth, and this is where Maschine shines.  It’s more than just a tool for Hip-Hop and Dance tracks, it’s a groove machine that:

  • is a sampler
  • is an FX processor
  • is a groove sequencer
  • has thousands of drum, percussion, sound FX, and vocal sounds
  • plays loops and REX files
  • incorporates sounds from Native Instruments Komplete package
  • is a sound librarian

It does all of that and…  wait for it… hosts all of your VST and AU plug-ins.  That last feature combined with all the others, is what has quickly made Maschine indispensable for me as a music production tool.   I have a lot of drum and percussion plug-ins – sometimes I think too many.  Often when creating a new tune, I find myself spending too much time looking for the perfect drum or percussion sound.  Let’s say I’m looking for a nice tambourine sound.  I have to fish though all my favorite plugins and sounds including: Stylus RMX, Superior Drummer, Prime Loops libraries, etc.  All with various methods for organizing sounds.  Well Maschine sort of gels it all together.  Now I simply go to Maschine’s browser and filter to “Percussion” >> ‘Tambourine’ and there I see all my Tambourine loops from Stylus RMX and Prime Loops, plus sounds from Maschine’s library and all my other drum plugins.  So sounds I may have overlooked in the past are now neatly organized and ready for action.


As much as I like the flexibility of software, I also like having good tactile control of instruments and Maschine offers both.  NI claims that you can comfortably perform most (if not all) functions of Maschine using the hardware controller.  This is absolutely true.  If you’re performing or DJing live, then having the big brother Maschine may be a good choice for you.  But if you’re a home studio recording musician and aren’t looking to use Maschine in the live environment, the Maschine Mikro is a better choice in my opinion.  I have Maschine Mikro and I like that it’s not too large since I don’t have a whole lot of free space to offer.  Secondly, I don’t want to perform 100% of Maschine’s software functions using the hardware.  I’ve settled in very comfortably using about 50% to 60% of Maschine’s software functions using the hardware controller and the rest I use the mouse.  Some functions are dreamy smooth using the controller (such as sampling and sequencing) and some functions (such as browsing) are easier to perform with my mouse.  The good thing is the hardware will perform all functions of the software (except naming files) and you can choose to use the hardware as it best fits your workflow.


Maschine’s browser is one of its keystone features and is fairly similar to other Native Instrument products such as Kontakt and Guitar Rig.  Its browser is divided into categories including: Projects, Groups, Sounds, Patterns, VST / AU Instruments, FX, and Samples.  You can create tags within each of the categories to easily find what you’re looking for.

The three most powerful weapons here are the Projects, Groups and Patterns.  Patterns are very useful, because they can be saved independently of the sounds.  So if you have a groove idea you want to capture, but don’t know yet what sounds you want to use, you can save the pattern and drag it later onto any kit you like.  Groups are essentially a collection of sounds that are mapped to each of the 16 pads.   But they do so much more.  With a group (kit) you can save to each pad either an individual drum sound, a multi-sampled sound, a loop, or a VST / AU Instrument all with insert or send FX.  Projects are the collection of these groups of which there are eight (A through H), along with patterns, song arrangements and master level FX.  The combinations and ease of which you can organize your sounds are intuitive and robust.

Also worth noting is the Sample category which gives you easy access to the thousands of raw samples within Maschine’s library along with your own samples; and the Sounds category which can be a sample, loop or Instrument that contains all your FX settings.  Lastly the browser has a Disk button that gives you access to all the content on your hard drives.

Virtual Drums that Rock! NI Maschine Screenshot 1


I used to love sampling my own sounds back in the days when I had the Akai S700 rack mount sampler.  I would send a signal from my mixing board to the sampler, hit record, and play it back on my keyboard.  Easy!  But, have you ever tried sampling in NI’s Kontakt?  This is way too complicated for my piano and sax playing brain.  By contrast, sampling on NI’s Maschine could not be any easier.  I keep Maschine FX as an effects send in my DAW and send a ‘master out’ channel to it all of the time.  So at any time I want to sample drums or make loops from my piano playing or recorded tracks, I simply select that instance of Maschine from the hardware controller and hit record.  That’s it!  This has brought me back into the world of sampling and I now enjoy sampling and slicing my own recordings to create new musical ideas.  You can find Maschine sampling tutorials on NI’s website.


When we talk about virtual drums you can’t overlook one of the most important aspects – the sounds!  As virtual drums go, I don’t believe I’ve heard a sound library as complete as the one inMaschine.  I’m not talking about sifting through hundreds of sub par drum kits needing all levels of FX treatment to be usable.  I’m talking about one of the most bass thumping, highs shimmering, comprehensive virtual drum libraries out there.  As quoted from NI’s website, both Maschine and Maschine Mikro come with:

  • Over 6 GB of sounds including 18,000 samples, 7,000 one-shots, 400 loops, 300 drum kits with 1,400 patterns, 388 sampled instruments, 170 FX/multi-FX presets, and 60 demo projects
  • Contains multi-sampled acoustic instruments including pianos, organs, strings, brass and more

The raw sample sounds are very high quality and the produced sounds with effects are very well done and inspiring.  With this one product you have what seems like the entire history of analog drum machines such as the classic 808, 909, DMX and Linn drum sounds, as well as acoustic sets, vinyl sets, etc.  Maschine’s browser and hardware controller make it a snap to find, select, or drag and drop sounds onto pads to make kits on the fly.  You can also combine multiple kits (or groups) easily into projects containing kits, instruments, sounds, loops and FX all together and ready for recording.


The feature that makes me most excited about Maschine is its ease of use.  Whether it’s the pattern based sequencer, its hardware control, intuitive browser, plugin integration with your DAW, or plugin hosting, Maschine has become an integral part of my creative workflow.  This virtual drums groove box is not just for producers of dance genres, Maschine is for producers and musicians of any genre who want a complete groove production workstation that operates as a plugin within your DAW.

Before Maschine, I was using Ableton Live to scratch out grooves, then I would Rewire the audio back into Cubase or Logic.  Ableton Live is a great product, but it is 32-bit only and I’m running a completely native 64-bit system.  You can’t Rewire a 32-bit application into a 64-bit application, and as of this writing Ableton has no plans to release a 64-bit version.  NI Maschine on the other hand is native 64-bit and Native Instruments is great about staying up to date with OS changes.  Also with Maschine you can drag and drop your performances and grooves as either MIDI or audio back to your DAW, or simply let it run as a plugin synced to your DAW.


Maschine – Conclusion

Whether you’re producing Hip-Hop, Electronica, Dance, R&B, Smooth Jazz or Singer Songwriter tracks, NI’s Maschine will expand your palette of virtual drums and give you an easy workflow that keeps you groovin’.  For virtual drums that rock I’d give it three thumbs up, but thankfully I only have two thumbs.  Look out for video posts and demo’s from me showcasing some of the cool things you can so with Maschine.  In the meantime, you can check this video from NI demonstrating Maschine.

So if you’re looking for some incredible virtual drums that rock, along with an organized librarian, easy to use sampler, intuitive groove sequencer and VST / AU plugin host – check out Maschine!

Stephan Earl

Composing, recording and producing music in the home studio environment for over 25 years, musician and author Stephan Earl now enjoys sharing his home studio setup experience with other home studio recording musicians via HomeMusicProduction.com.


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